Driving is a complicated task that involves both mental and physical abilities, and aging has a direct impact on both. Knowledge and skill are factors that increase with experience, but advanced age often leads to specific health issues that can adversely affect the safety of even the best drivers.
Everyone ages differently, but all of our bodies eventually start to break down. By the age of 60, factors like flexibility, range of motion and strength can decrease by up to 25 percent. Drivers who are over the age of 70 also experience an increased incidence of arthritic joints, which can restrict their mobility even further.
Maturation is a fact of life for every driver, but there are a number of modern technologies that can help counteract many of the effects of aging. These features can lead to increased safety on the road, and some of them can also have a positive effect on comfort.
Five Vital Features for Every Mature Driver
There are a number of features that can help keep mature drivers safe and comfortable on the road, but there are five in particular that apply to virtually every situation. Regardless of any specific health issues, every mature driver should look for:
Everyone should be concerned about crashworthiness, but it’s especially important to seniors. Good crash test ratings are essential, but it’s also important to check rollover ratings.
Active head restraints
In certain types of collisions, the sudden change in momentum can cause a motorist’s head to move violently forward and then backward. That can cause severe injuries to older drivers, which head restraints with active padding can help prevent.
Brakes that are equipped with hydraulic or vacuum boosters don’t require a lot of force to activate, but some older drivers still have trouble with panic stops. Anti-lock brake systems automatically pulse the brakes, so the driver doesn’t have to pump the pedal.
Traction and stability controls.
In the same way that anti-lock brakes can help a driver maintain control when stopping, traction and stability systems can prevent the loss of control in other situations. These systems can help compensate for slow reaction times during acceleration and cornering.
Address Specific Health Issues
There are also certain conditions and issues that can be addressed by specific features. Drivers who have leg and hip issues should look for vehicles that include six-way adjustable seats, which can also be helpful to small-statured drivers. A low door threshold can also make it easier to get into a vehicle, and many people have trouble getting out of concave, bucket seats.
Power seats are often helpful to drivers who deal with arthritis and fine motor skill problems. These drivers can also benefit from large dashboard controls, keyless entry, and thick steering wheels that are easy to grip. It’s also typically easier to open the doors on a sedan than a coupe because the latter tends to have longer, heavier doors.
There are also features that can help with a limited range of motion, vision problems, and various other health issues. The key is for each driver to identify his or her own health issues that can be alleviated through safety and comfort features.
Consider Aftermarket Solutions
Depending on the specific issues that a mature driver has to deal with, some of the most helpful accessories and devices include:
- Larger rear-view mirrors
- Pedal extensions
- Steering wheel covers
- Seat pads and cushions
- Steering wheel spinner knobs
- Back up cameras